Soldiers, community in Denim Day Walk support victims

Photo by Casey Slusser, TASC

Leadership, Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and community members of this installation took part in the 2015 Denim Day Walk here, April 8.

The community event demonstrated support for victims of sexual assault and one of this month’s national observances – Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention. The Department of Defense theme for this year’s campaign is “Eliminate Sexual Assault: Know Your Part, Do Your Part.”

This was the third year Fort Irwin conducted the march, which began with a formation of post units and was coordinated by the installation Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program.

National Training Center and Fort Irwin Commander Brig. Gen. Joseph Martin, his spouse Lean Martin, NTC Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Travers and NTC staff led the procession through several streets. The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Horse Detachment and units followed.

Participants wore denim in solidarity with the origins of Denim Day.

Martin spoke to the post-wide formation assembled on the blue track here and said the campaign against sexual assault is about prevention, intervention and being there for those who are survivors of sexual assault. He explained that serving, working and supporting the Army is to be part of a team that intervenes on behalf of individuals in need of help.

“I took an oath, I made a pledge,” Martin said. “’I Joe Martin, pledge to take a strong committed affirmative and forever stand to protect my fellow Soldiers, family members and DA civilians against sexual violence. I pledge never to be a bystander, and I’ll ensure Soldiers, family members and DA civilians are treated with dignity and respect at all times. ‘I Am Strong.’

“So, as we march together, today, on this third annual Denim Day I ask you to think about that pledge and be there for your fellow Soldier, civilian and family member so we can eliminate sexual assault, sexual harassment and violence for our team of teams here.”

The commander described a strategy against sexual assault as starting at the smallest level, where innuendos or statements should be addressed immediately.

“Hey, what that person just did or said does not reflect our Army values,” Martin described a scenario. “That’s where we get after this. That’s when we have culture change, where at the lowest level possible we see something and we say, ‘This is not within our Army values, I don’t support that and I’m going to stand up against it.’”

Martin also emphasized intervention in situations where an incident is about to occur. He stressed the resources available to help, such as law enforcement, chain of command, and leaders of the community.

Maj. Robyn Boehringer, SHARP manager, explained in a previous news article that Denim Day began after a rapist’s conviction and sentence was overturned in Italy by that country’s supreme court. The chief judge argued, “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape, but consensual sex.” Additionally, the Italian supreme court stated in its decision, “it is a fact of common experience that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.”

The women in the Italian parliament launched into immediate action and protested by wearing jeans to work and holding placards that read, “Jeans: An Alibi for Rape.” From this display of outrage, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault.